The Comox Valley Art Gallery/TIFF Winter Film Series continues this Sunday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. at the Rialto Theatre with Force Majeure – a wickedly funny and precisely observed psychodrama that tells the story of a model Swedish family.
One of the most daring and audacious filmmakers to emerge in the last decade, Ruben Östlund hit a new peak with Force Majeure, a critical hit at this year’s Cannes Festival.
As in his previous films Involuntary and Play, with his latest Östlund turns a keenly analytic eye on those principles we supposedly live by, and explores what happens when the codes of conduct enforcing those principles are abruptly stripped away.
On a family skiing vacation in the French Alps, married couple Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are enjoying lunch with their two children when their meal is suddenly interrupted by thunderous booms emanating from the mountain above them.
The complacent Tomas initially dismisses the possibility of danger — but when it appears that there may be an avalanche, he grabs his cell phone and bolts, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves.
The remainder of the film monitors the fallout from this fateful incident, as husband and wife hotly debate what actually occurred, and what Tomas’ proper response should have been — a battle that eventually threatens not just Tomas and Ebba’s relationship, but those of the people around them.
From terrifying to comic
Both psychologically and sociologically acute, Force Majeure boasts a number of bravura moments that range from terrifying to comic — most notably, and daringly, an indelible, extended crying jag/confession from one of the principals.
While this climactic moment is on the one hand self-serving, convoluted and shambolic, it also seems bizarrely honest.
Probing that paradox with intelligence and incisiveness, it’s little wonder that Östlund has earned comparisons to such masterful cinematic social critics as Michael Haneke and Östlund’s countryman and mentor Roy Andersson.
“Visually stunning even in its most banal moments and emotionally perceptive almost to a fault, the film stands to complicate many a romantic arthouse date.” —Peter Debruge, Variety
“An ice cold knockout. Brilliantly perceptive and frostily funny.” —Aaron Hills, Village Voice
Tickets are $13, $12 for CVAG members, available at the CVAG Gift Shop, 580 Duncan Ave., Courtenay (6th and Duncan) and at the door if available (Door: cash only, exact change appreciated). To purchase tickets over the phone call CVAG at 250-338-6211.